Google “An Empath Is”

When I googled “an empath is” – this is what came up (in order):

  •  being an empath is killing me
  •  being an empath is exhausting 
  •  being an empath is hard
  •  when an empath is angry
  •  when an empath is hurt
  •  being an empath is ruining my life
  •  being an empath is draining
  •  being an empath is painful
  • when an empath gets depressed 

What? Is that it? Pain & Misery make the top ten on the Empath List? No, I don’t think so. No, I know not. I Googled “an empath is” on multiple days and even at different times of the day. Same list. Again and again. I’m not a computer tech at Google, so I don’t know how the drop down menu from a Google search is selected. I am an empath, and I do know that there are many articles and posts on the web addressing many empath characteristics, issues, and concerns. And they are not all negative.

There is a downside and an upside to almost everything. That includes being an empath. Feeling deeply can be really hard (pain, grief, etc.) Feeling deeply can be really wonderful (love, joy, etc.)  Feeling others feelings can be energizing (excitement, happiness, etc) or it can be exhausting (anger, sadness, etc.) The key is to see the big picture and to recognize yourself in it. In any given situation – Where is your balance? What is your role? How can you join in? How can you step away?

An empath is an empath. There is no changing who you are. But like everyone else, empaths are on a life journey where there are better and worse ways to navigate. Self- awareness and self-understanding will help guide your compass. Don’t let others define you or determine your happiness level. You decide how to finish the sentence.

 

 

Grace Under Pressure

Ernest Hemingway said “Courage is grace under pressure.” He meant stand your ground and be guided by grace. He meant keep your cool when others around you are losing theirs. He meant show courteous good will in troubling times and hardship. He meant show others how to lead with graceful courage.

What has happened to “grace under pressure”? It appears often absent these days. But I think it IS still with us. It doesn’t seek the limelight because that is not its purpose. Its purpose is to be steadfast and surefooted. It stands in sharp contrast to the bullish opinions seizing our media that are rushed out every day without thought or care. “Grace under pressure” requires calm and thought. It requires careful consideration and not quick name calling. It requires self-control and composure.

Many do follow the “grace under pressure” guide. They know it takes practice and lots of it. They are those who retain their composure in the midst of conflict and stress. They are those who know who they are and what they can do under challenging circumstances.

They may be on the public stage or on a private one. They are the athletes who stand up after they fall and keep coming back. They are the statesman who consistently put their citizens needs first and foremost. They are the nurses who calm the frightened. They are the friends who stay through the storms. They are you and me. They are us.

Think of a time when you showed strength that you did not even know you had, and you used that strength to help in a crisis. You were fully present. You rallied the troops, you held the hand, you calmed the scared, you rose to the occasion.You were showing grace under pressure. We all have this amazing ability inside of us. We need to honor it, develop it, and use it.

No More I Love You Buts

Everyone wants to hear I love you. No one wants to hear I love you but _______. It changes the whole meaning of the phrase. It is like a left-handed compliment. It sets you up to hear something beautiful, but ends up with you hearing something ugly. It is disguised criticism, and it is mean, thoughtless, and cruel. (Not to mention, judgmental and self-righteous to boot.)

Beware of I love you but-ters because they don’t play fair. They are especially dangerous for highly sensitive people and empaths because they cause us emotional swings. (It’s a constant challenge for us to regulate our emotions anyway.)  We hear and feel the lovely words, then get blindsided by the following criticism. I love you buts wreak havoc with us.

Urban Dictionary defines I Love You, But as: “The phrase someone close to you says before they point out a flaw, something you did or are currently doing wrong, a mistake you made, something embarrassing, or flat out mean.” (Words in bold are from Urban Dictionary, not me.)

The most common I love you buts that HSPs and empaths hear are “I love you, but you are too sensitive,” or “I love you, but you are too emotional.” This implies that there is something wrong with us and the way we are (intrinsically wrong). It is criticizing us for being us. It’s something that we can’t change, so it is a confusing and hurtful to hear from someone who says they love us. We see being sensitive and emotional as our strength (and are well aware that the rest of the world often doesn’t see it that way).The capacity to feel empathy and compassion deeply is who we are and what we do.

If you are hearing I love you but _____, I suggest that you point out to the I love you but-ter that it is hurtful and unacceptable; to knock it off. (Often, they have learned this phrase/behavior in childhood from unhealthy/critical parents.) If they love you as they say, they can unlearn it.

You deserve three beautiful words. I love you. Period.

 

 

 

 

Be Stubborn

“I know of no higher fortitude than stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds.” ~ Louis Nizer

Stubborn. Iron-willed. Strong-willed. Difficult. My mother would hurl these words at me in my childhood. And I would think, so what? I liked being stubborn because it kept me in good stead. It was quiet defiance. It was self preservation. It helped me stay me. Determined. Persevering. Goal oriented. Eyes on the prize. And I learned young, that moving forward and overcoming obstacles takes a creative force of will and stubborn laser focus.

“You can change your mind, but you can’t change me….” ~ Jim Croce

Stubbornness is an advantage to an empath. In spades. Stubbornness helps us not to lose ourselves, especially in times of conflict. We quietly stick to our guns. We listen to what you have to say. We may disagree with you. But if you come at us with forceful aggression or self-righteousness with all of its negative energy, we will we retreat into stubbornness. We know what we know. We may stop arguing, but never take that as a sign that we are in agreement with you (if we haven’t said so).

“People think I am strong….I am not strong.There is a difference between a strong person and a stubborn person who just won’t put her sword down. I am the latter. Again and again and again. Pick the sword up, pick the sword up, pick the sword up….” ~ C. Joybell C.

The sword is our determination for the truth. Stubbornness is a useful trait for this quest. Stubbornness seeks the truth. Doggedness just won’t let go when we want to know. And empaths can’t abide liars. Don’t lie to us. We will see through your smokescreen. We will feel your emotional energies. We we will get to the heart of the matter with or without you. I can be as stubborn as the day is long.

You may not equate being stubborn with having hope, but I do. Hope never gives up. Just like stubbornness.

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.” ~ Anne Lamott

Hold on. Persevere. Be stubborn.

Self-Perception

How do you view yourself? Self-perception is “the idea that you have about the kind of person you are” (learnersdictionary.com). How we view ourselves is more important than how others view us. Clear self-understanding leads to clear self-perception. To be the best youest you, we need to develop clear self-perception.

“To thine own self be true.” is a much quoted phrase by William Shakespeare from Hamlet. And for an empath? To be true to ourselves is to embrace and own our gift of feeling what others around us feel. It is connecting with compassion. Our nature is to live by our emotions, and our decisions will always reflect this. This is how we walk through life (even if it seems strange to others). And sometimes, it may mean getting away from others so we can breathe and regroup. We need to self-affirm what we know to be true and not be coerced out of it.

Empaths often need time to think and feel away from the emotions of others around them. That’s why when we are in a situation of conflict, we walk away. This can be interpreted as permanently retreating or surrendering. It is not. It is stepping away from the emotions of others in order to get clear about what we really feel, think, and know to be true for us. Others may push hard to dissuade us, and we feel their strong emotions like an onslaught. So we need to physically leave the room. Then we can get away from the emotional tug of the other and his/her “what about me?”  When we are clear about what we think and feel, we may re-engage to finish the discussion, or we may choose to disengage from it all together. (Note that when an empath stops talking, that doesn’t mean that we agree with you. It means that we are stepping back and going inside to affirm what we believe, and we may or may not share it with you.)

Self-talk and affirmations can help us with self-perception. What we say to ourselves  matters. Our words frame who we are. We need to build strong frames for ourselves. My every day mantra is “Be brave.” I wear it on my wrist, so I can see it every day. Pick what works for you. Own it.

 

We Bring the Calm

Most Empaths have the ability to project energy as well as absorb it. It often occurs without us having to do anything at all, as it seems to flow. Learning to control this can help calm situations and send peaceful, healing energy. (Sharon OBrien)

Aha moment. Yes we can, and yes we do. Are you someone who small groups gravitate toward? Family wants you present at the gathering? Work wants you on the committee? Friends want you at the dinner? There is a reason why your presence is requested. It is because you are you. And Empaths bring a lot to the table.

We can quietly read a room as we enter it. We can quietly know the feelings of the participants gathered. We know the comfort level of everyone in the room, so we can handle emotional situations with care and skill. We can improve the energy in the room by projecting calm, and calm breeds more calm. (Wise decisions are never made in a turbulent room.) Good energy in the room leads to better outcomes and better experiences.

As an Empath, you probably have this skill in spades, but maybe you have never thought about it. Consider yourself  now. People seek you out? Advice for friends? Understanding for family? Recommendations for work? Empaths listen closely to others, and we listen with our hearts. We absorb energy, and we reflect it back with great kindness. We are quiet achievers and those around us sense our knowing and request our help.

I’ll close with another quote from Sharon OBrien’s post. (Link below for those who want to read full text.)

As I mentioned, Empaths can sense the mood or atmosphere of a room or place. That can give us an indication of what to expect in many situations where others are flying blind. Since we can feel what is going on with other people, we can sense how or when it is a good time to say something, or to let something go. If you use your imagination, there are many ways to use your Empathic gift to help others as well as yourself.

Appreciate your gift. It can move mountains one stone at a time.

Is There a Positive Side to Being an Empath?

Thriving It

How can you thrive as an empath? And by thrive, I mean grow, develop, and flourish! Too often, we stew on the (numerous) challenges that make our lives tough. But I firmly believe that we are who we are by design. You are not an accident. Your gift is not an accident. The gift of heightened emotion is like a waterfall that can’t be turned off. By embracing who you are, what you are, and your unique contributions that you bring to this world, you can have an incredibly full life.

Unfortunately, childhood is a confusing time for empaths. We are navigating everyone else’s feelings and not separating them from our own feelings. We careen around and get close to or run away from others A LOT.  My parents called me moody and too sensitive. I did not know how to handle or acknowledge all the emotions swirling through me and around me. But I knew that I had a strong inner light, and on several occasions, people tried to put that light out.

My first lesson was learning how to treat myself. With maturity and experience (both good and bad), empaths learn how to cope with their heightened emotions. Self-Acceptance is key. Learning that we don’t need to justify ourselves is key. Embracing who we are is key. Treating ourselves as kindly as we do others is key. My first mantra became “Be gentle with yourself.”

Next was learning how to create healthy boundaries. This is often a big problem for empaths, and it was for me too. Too often, I was the dumping ground for other people’s emotional chaos. It was a very gradual process to learn to take care of my own needs. The fallout was big including divorce and ending a few friendships, but it was necessary for my own survival.

Now I work on staying grounded, surrounding myself with as much positive energy as possible, and learning from and sharing with other empaths and sensitives. I appreciate the joy of my intense emotions in the good times, and ride the wave of intense emotions during bad times, knowing that all feelings will pass through me. My current mantra? I am what I am. Namaste.

Empathy to Advocacy

“All advocacy is, at its core, an exercise in empathy.” ~ Samantha Power

It is, isn’t it? Why do you advocate for someone? Why do you speak for someone who is unable to speak out for themselves? What is the sense in it? You may not have named it yet, but if you are a sensitive soul who can know and feel what others are experiencing, you likely live a life that includes advocacy.

When we think of advocates, empaths may not be the first kind of person that comes to mind. We usually are not attention seeking people, though we often find ourselves on the front lines. The struggling and the wounded are drawn to us because we see them.

The hard part for empaths is to see and to help without being crushed in the process. You have to find your niche. And you have to recognize your capacity and your limits. Your compassion needs to be strong with a healthy balance. You need to know how much you personally can and cannot handle.

Many empaths are drawn to the helping professions, myself included. My niche is with children.  I teach children. I am not a mainstream classroom teacher, however. I teach the strugglers. Sometimes, the hard cases. Sometimes, the misunderstood ones. Language, poverty, special needs come with this territory.

My compassion, understanding, and empathy are my greatest tools. When a child feels safe, loved, and supported, they will make great gains in school. My job is to ensure this – to advocate on a daily basis with the wider school community because often “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

If you are a parent, you are automatically an advocate as well. Depending on your child, your role may be lesser or greater. Even so, as empaths, we do not like conflict. (It feels like everyone’s insides are yelling!) However, we will quietly and firmly come forth to speak out for our own children as much as is needed.

An advocate is part of who I am, just as being an empath is. I didn’t seek out this role, it sought me out. I just needed the courage to own it. You too.

 

 

 

 

Emotional Intensity – I’ll Take That One

If you google “emotional high,” you get a list from psychologists about pathology. If you google “emotional intensity,” you get a list about gifted people from educators. Isn’t it interesting that the same trait with a slight change in wording gives you a completely different view? And with that view, comes a completely different approach to viewing that person. Well if you’re an empath, you are that person. And that person is gifted. So thank you very much, we’ll take the gifted view.

Here are some definitions on the subject from Google:

“Emotional Intensity is a form of neurodiversity that is most often misunderstood by our culture. Emotional Intensity in itself is not a pathology. It overlaps with other traits such as being highly sensitive (HSP), being an ’empath’, having thin-boundaries, and over-excitabilities.”

“neu·ro·di·ver·si·ty
ˌn(y)o͝orōdəˈvərsədē,ˌn(y)o͝orōˌdīˈvərsədē/
noun
the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population (used especially in the context of autistic spectrum disorders).”
You, my friend, may fall into the category of neurodivergent (and not neurotypical). That means that your brain with its intense emotions makes you a little bit different. But you already knew that, didn’t you? The reassuring news is that we are starting to be more widely accepted as being a “normal variation in the human population.”
So I suggest that you appreciate who you are. Appreciate that you can experience emotional intensity and mirror it back to others. It is a way to get lost and stay present at the same time. Sex, music, nature, you name it, it is all more intense because of what you bring to the table. You have emotional focus. Not everyone can handle it, can handle you, but those who do may love you for it.
Empath. Emotional intensity. Gift. Think about it. Or should I say, feel it?

Staying Hopeful in an Unhopeful World

The world is a mess. My country is a mess. Crimes of inhumanity flooding us through the media. It is overwhelming and hurtful and difficult not to close our eyes and disappear. So, you sensitive souls, you empaths, how do you stay hopeful in an unhopeful world?

I often look to the most thoughtful leaders who live(d) through times of wretched conflict and who never gave up hope for humanity. They are the tragic optimists. The ones that know firsthand about inhumanity (having seen it up close and personal) and yet still have faith in human goodness. Abraham Lincoln, Viktor Frankel, and the Dalai Lama are the big three for me. When I feel our world has gone mad, I turn to leaders who have seen this madness on a grand scale – having survived the American Civil War, the Holocaust, and the annexation of Tibet – and I see that they all remain(ed) hopeful. Their words inspire me to keep hopeful.

Their words remind us that losing or keeping hope is a choice we can make and re-make every day.

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”
Dalai Lama XIV

“Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.” – Viktor Frankel in Man’s Search for Meaning.

Words of inspiration can soothe our souls, but how do we get through the day? What can we do in our daily lives to keep hopeful? Here is some advice from Psychology Today on 3 Ways to Stay Hopeful:

1. Be kind—to yourself and others:

Curtail your intake on media—we are constantly bombarded by media with “breaking news.” Consider watching/reading a couple of news shows/articles a couple of times a day (once a day is better). Although news reported later in the day is more current, it’s not particularly healthy to go to sleep with disturbing thoughts fresh in your mind. So make sure you read, watch or do something that will replace unwanted thoughts before entering a sleep cycle.

Take mini-breaks—these can be anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, two or three times a day. Shift your focus from whatever you are doing to something that brings you the feeling of happiness. For instance, visually look at the flowers in the office or the clouds floating by or photos of loved ones, or close your eyes and go to your happy place; you’ll feel refreshed.

Practice random acts of kindness—every day! Go ahead and help the elder across the street, or get the item off the top shelf at the grocery store for the person in the wheelchair, or give a sincere compliment to your coworker, or hold the elevator door open for all to enter or exit freely. These random acts will bring a smile to your face as well as the person on the receiving end. Remember: Kindness begets hopeful feelings.

2. Treat each day like a precious gift:

Express love tangibly—be generous with hugs for loved ones, encouraging words for coworkers, and those acts of kindness mentioned above. The more we express our love, the more deeply we feel it and the more hopeful we’ll be.

Revel in the beauty around you—there is beauty everywhere; sometimes we just have to shift our focus. Notice the color of the sky, the grain in the wood, the water dripping off an icicle, the sound of children laughing, or bird song. Beauty is plentiful, and always there. Realizing there is beauty brings with it a feeling of hope.

Be grateful—for everything! The roof over our head, food in the refrigerator, the warmth of a sweater, and for the people in our lives, especially our family and friends. Even in the bleakest of times, we have much to be grateful for.

3. Make a difference:

Volunteer—if you have a special skill, consider sharing it; be a reader at your local school or a helper at a soup kitchen. And if you have a special interest, consider getting involved in an organization that improves the life of others less fortunate. Volunteering puts not only our lives, but the lives of others into perspective.

Make calls, write post cards—if being social isn’t your strong suit, consider making phone calls or sending post cards to government officials to express your concerns. Millions of people feel the same way you do but most won’t take action. And consider breaking the mold by being pro-social – go on a mass march to openly protest injustices to women and minorities and/or to support science, climate change initiatives, etc. Being pro-active is being hopeful.

Be kind—it’s worth repeating! By being kind to yourself and others, you automatically make the world a better, more hopeful place and pave the way for a brighter future. The Dalai Lama reminds us often that shared Compassion makes our world more loveable and liveable, but should begin with self-compassion. YOU are the key! – Rosemary K. Sword and Philip Zimbardo Ph.D.

Be kind, be hopeful. The world needs your compassionate strength.
“Let us confidently hope that all will be well.” – Abraham Lincoln